Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What do you learn from your mistakes?

Post 336 - According to Abraham Lincoln, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” Acts of daring are needed to make progress in today’s world. So, don’t be afraid to take a risk and go out on a limb - that’s where the fruit is. Townes Duncan, the former CEO of Compronix, remembers, “Seymour Cray was a friend of my dad’s. I asked him what it was like to know the genius who’d built the world’s first supercomputer company. My dad said ‘Well, actually, he wasn’t so much smarter than me. He just made mistakes a hundred times faster.’” People who are afraid of making mistakes may avoid stubbing their toes, but they won’t make much progress.

It’s important to learn from the mistakes of others - you can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. Although many managers today find themselves lacking the new skills and knowledge required to tackle their ever more demanding responsibilities, there’s also a relentless drive to make mid-career instruction more practical, meaningful and efficient. Companies now demand that executive education achieve specific, real-world goals and provide an immediate payoff. The business doesn’t come to a halt allowing people to go off and take training classes. Short-duration long-distance schooling using internet conferencing, with courses custom designed for employees of a single company, is clearly more efficient than losing managers for weeks and months at off-site executive education courses.

While these new technologies are quite effective for knowledge dissemination, they’re less so for leadership development. This usually involves changing people’s perspective as well as giving them additional skills. At senior levels, executives learn best through direct interaction with their peers. People learn when their emotions are tapped, when they connect with others and hear their stories. The emotional part of the brain is the gateway to the learning part of the brain. The deepest learning comes from trial, failure, reflection and feedback. Without reflection, you can’t articulate your experience so you lack the concepts you need to understand your situation. You need this awareness before you’re motivated to change. You need an idea of why the change is necessary.

Westerners tend to think of knowledge as an individual matter - “it’s what I know” - but in practice, the Eastern perspective, which is essentially a group perspective, is more relevant for today because it builds the collective capacity to take effective action. Learning isn’t about transferring information from one person to another. Human beings are not very good at information transfer - machines are much better at this. Learning is about enhancing the capacity for effective action and is different from information transfer in that way. However, we don’t usually distinguish one from the other. Training is something that’s done to people; learning is what people are genetically designed to do for themselves.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young," according to Henry Ford.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The pros and cons of working at home.

Post 335 - One way to get more balance in your life is to work from home. I’ve worked at home now for 30-years and I highly recommend it. Many others are now "telecommuting" from home, either full or part-time, or are leaving their corporate jobs behind and starting their own home-based businesses. If you can figure out how to make a living at home, or shift much of what you do to a home office, here are some of the advantages:

To begin with, there’s no commute. Think of all the time and money spent getting to work: it’s stressful as well as costly. No gas, no parking, no rushing to make the bus or train. Your 30-second commute can save you a whole extra day each week! And this also reduces your bills by saving on gas and car expenses and lunch expenses. If a tank of gas costs $50 and lasts a week, cutting that in half gets you another $100 a month. Typically, lunch in the corporate cafeteria will run you around $7. At home, you can get a tasty lunch for $2 - another $100 a month in savings.

There’s no dress code in my office. I have colleagues who even admit to working some of the time in their pajamas. Most people save money on clothes.

A typical office environment is noisy, with people talking, phones ringing, co-workers constantly dropping by to chat. At home, these distractions aren’t going to bother you so you actually end up getting more work done than you would at the office.

People who work from home are able to write off their business expenses and home-office space on their income taxes. Telephone, stationary and other overhead expenses can be shared between the house and the office.

One of the biggest advantages of working at home is flexibility. You can take breaks during the day and get errands done faster because stores, banks, and health clubs are very quiet during the daytime. You can go to the doctor, to your child’s sports event or school performance, visit a sick friend in hospital, or anything else you like without asking anyone’s permission. You have much more control over how you structure your time.

Of course, there are potential disadvantages as well:

When people communicate, a lot of information is conveyed by body language. You lose that when all your communication takes place over the phone or by email. Once in a while, it’s important to go to the office and talk to your co-workers in person.

Human interaction brings with it an opportunity for creative thought and innovation. When working at home, these stimuli won’t be there and you may feel isolated. From better brainstorming tools to virtual team software to video conferencing, there are an increasing number of ways to lessen isolation and make virtual collaboration with others smooth and painless.

If you get bored from time to time, work from a local coffee shop that has wifi. Other activities that create connection include lunch dates, continuing education, seminars, getting out of the house for some fresh air, exercise or errands, or daytime volunteer work.

Since there’s no pressure to begin working at a given time, it’s very easy to be late starting up in the morning. Productivity can seriously decrease unless you maintain considerable self-discipline. Housework, supervising people who are working on your house, and talking on the phone are all occupational hazards. If you can't focus on work with these kind of home distractions (plus kids, the lure of TV, etc.), you may want to rethink working at home in the first place. I’ve learned to be disciplined because if I don’t get any work done, I don’t make any money.

You need a separate office space to get away from distractions but also to get away from work. When your office space is so easily accessible, you’ll be tempted to check your phone messages or fax or email at all hours and to work whenever you have a chance. This isn’t necessarily because you’re a workaholic, but there’s always something to do and when it’s right there, you’re tempted to do it. Remember that the work will always be always there. You have to have the discipline to leave it alone.

You may need to install more phone lines, buy computer and copying equipment, and set up additional lighting in your home to create a workable office space. This can be a major expense if you’re just starting out. You’ll also need to train others in the house not to answer the "business phone" when it rings. The dog will invariably bark each time you make a business call, so put the dog outside during the day while you’re working. Since I don’t want clients trailing though my home to get to my office, I usually go to their offices to meet with them.

As virtual offices are now being set up all across the world, working from home is no longer unusual. Following a few simple tips and maintaining discipline in your work habits can overshadow the cons and let you reap the benefits of this splendid arrangement.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How to get a good night's sleep.

Post 334 - Several of the people who are dear to me have trouble sleeping. I've also discovered that as many as 70-million Americans (about one-quarter of the population) have difficulty sleeping, and half this group have chronic sleep problems. A good night's sleep is as important to survival as food and water. With too little, we don't function well. We run a higher risk of accidents, we sometimes perform poorly at work, and our moods can turn sour.

Some of the reasons that people can't sleep:
* Because of lifestyles or work schedules, sleep just isn't a priority for some people. Stress from hectic schedules can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep.
* The body's internal clock programs people to feel sleepy at night and to be active during the day. When that clock is upset, sleeping becomes difficult. For example, travelers who fly across multiple time zones often get "jet lag" because they can’t maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule.
* People who work at night and try to sleep during the day are constantly fighting their internal clocks. Without adequate rest, they’re more likely to make errors or have accidents at work.
* Sleep disorders often occur in people who have a chronic disease that involves pain or infection, a neurological or psychiatric disorder, or an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. For these individuals, as sleep becomes difficult, it potentially worsens their medical conditions.

Here are some of the more common recommendations for dealing with sleeplessness:
* Go to sleep and wake up at the same times as much as possible, even on weekends.
* Exercise at a regular time each day, at least 3-hours before bedtime.
* Get some natural, outdoor light each day.
* Avoid caffeine late in the day and don't drink alcohol to help you sleep.
* Create a quiet, dark, warm, and well ventilated place to sleep.
* Develop a nighttime routine that helps you slow down and relax before you go to bed.
* If you're having trouble falling asleep after about 15 minutes, get up, do a quiet activity, and return to bed when you’re sleepy.

In addition, I recommend you also try the following:

Learn to separate the majors from the minors. A lot of people can't quiet their mind to sleep simply because they major in minor things. Every evening, write down the three or four most important things you want to accomplish the next day. Then, while you sleep, your subconscious will work on finding the best ways for you to accomplish them. The following day should go much more smoothly as a result.

Say your affirmations as soon as you go to bed. This is a good practice because while you sleep, your brain will work on how to make your affirmations come true.

A Good Night Affirmation – "I’m the master of my mind. I have a powerful plan that will let me sleep peacefully every night."

A Goal-Setting Affirmation - "I’ve written down an important three-year goal and I’m taking steps to get started."

A Focusing Affirmation - "I’m paying attention to the opportunities that surround me every day."

If you're not sleeping because you have a problem related to work - the "XYZ issue," ask yourself, in your mind, the following question: "How can I resolve the XYZ issue?" Keep asking that question, in your mind, until you fall asleep. If your mind wanders, get back to the question and keep focusing on it.

Each morning when you wake up, while you’re still lying in bed, mentally start going through a list of things you’re grateful for and I’ll bet you’ll soon begin to feel blessed and appreciative! That way, you’ll start each day from a much better perspective.

And remind yourself how special and unique you are. If you believe in yourself, you’re destined for greatness. When you’re one of the few who get things done, you’re the envy of the many who only watch.

Have a powerful day! Make it a really great week...and sleep well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Suburban, a poem by John Ciardi.

Post 333 - This one is for Jon & Emily.
The son of Italian immigrants, John Ciardi was born in 1916 in Boston's North End and grew up in Medford, Massachusetts. He studied at Tufts University, before receiving his M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1939. After years of teaching English, at Harvard (1946-1953) and Rutgers (1953-1961), Ciardi resigned his tenured faculty position for an independent career. When he left Rutgers, he famously quipped that teaching was "planned poverty." He wrote 21 books of poetry and served as a highly popular poetry editor of the Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972. His occasional public television broadcasts were supplemented by his weekly National Public Radio series begun in 1980 as A Word in Your Ear. He was presented with a National Teachers Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1982. Ciardi died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday, 1986.

He once observed, "You don't have to suffer to be a poet; adolescence is enough suffering for anyone."

Suburban by John Ciardi

Yesterday Mrs. Friar phoned."Mr. Ciardi,
how do you do?" she said. "I am sorry to say
this isn't exactly a social call. The fact is
your dog has just deposited-forgive me-
a large repulsive object in my petunias."

I thought to ask, "Have you checked the rectal grooving
for a positive I.D.?" My dog, as it happened,
was in Vermont with my son, who had gone fishing-
if that's what one does with a girl, two cases of beer,
and a borrowed camper. I guessed I'd get no trout.

But why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack
"Yes, Mrs. Friar," l said, "I understand."
"Most kind of you," she said. "Not at all," I said.
I went with a spade. She pointed, looking away.
"I always have loved dogs," she said, "but really!"

I scooped it up and bowed. "The animal of it.
I hope this hasn't upset you, Mrs. Friar."
"Not really," she said, "but really!" I bore the turd
across the line to my own petunias
and buried it till the glorious resurrection

when even these suburbs shall give up their dead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creating good jobs.

Post 332 - Most people want time in their life for work, family, friends and themselves. They want an interesting job, one that will provide financial security and a chance to get ahead. Sometimes, they want all these things equally, at once; more often, they want different things at different points in their lives. As the poet Maya Angelou says, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

Every employee brings unique needs, capabilities, desires and aspirations with them when they go to work every day. People who feel they’re productively developing and applying their capabilities and who feel their company is committed to their welfare invariably commit themselves to helping the business succeed. Frustrated and unfulfilled workers seldom give the company their all.

I’ve found that people’s needs and expectations at work generally center around the three Cs:

• Competence - having the skills and capabilities it takes to perform their work well

• Contribution – knowing how what they do adds value for the business and its customers

• Centrality – knowing that what they do is important and makes a difference.

In addition, employees consistently report the following 'top ten' as job characteristics that generate commitment. They say that a well-designed job:

• Uses their skills and abilities
• Provides opportunities for learning and development
• Specifies a well-defined area of responsibility
• Poses reasonable demands and challenges
• Provides opportunities for social interactions with colleagues
• Contributes to the product the company makes or the service it provides
• Incorporates some variety in the tasks being performed
• Allows for making a worthwhile and meaningful contribution
• Leads to some sort of a desirable future
• Provides opportunities to influence decisions about their work

Different people value these characteristics differently but, taken as a whole, they describe jobs that fulfill people’s needs, keep them productive and don’t stress them out.

Sometime back I bought a raffle ticket and on the ticket it said: You Must Be Present to Win. And I thought, ‘That’s it! That’s the ticket to success in life!’ To be fully present with whatever you’re doing while you’re doing it. Fully awake – fully aware and focused on the person or the situation that’s right there in front of you. So, don't wait for someone else to come and rescue you from an unsatisfactory situation. Success in life is not a random event. Each of us will be as successful as we choose to be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to work less and produce more.

Post 331 - 80-plus hour work weeks are common in large law firms, where most associates are expected to bill 2200 hours a month minimum! Investment bankers also spend prodigious hours at work, as do many other professionals. A survey of 605 U.S. workers last spring by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 70% of employees work beyond their scheduled time and on weekends; more than half blame "self-imposed pressure." Now, new research suggests some have reached the point where to get more done, they need to stop working as much.

A four-year study, reported in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review, confirms that getting away from work can yield unexpected on-the-job benefits. When members of twelve consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group were each required to take a block of "predictable time off" every week, "we had to practically force some professionals" to get away, says Professor Leslie Perlow who headed the study. But working together to make sure each consultant got some time off forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships. They also had to do a better job at planning ahead and streamlining work, which often resulted in improved customer service. After five months of predictable time off, internal surveys showed consultants were more satisfied with their jobs and their work-life balance, and were more likely to stay with the firm, compared with consultants who weren't part of the experiment. As word spread, other consultants began asking to join the study. Boston Consulting is so pleased with the outcome that it's introducing a similar teaming strategy over the next year to many new U.S. projects.

Other companies have introduced similar initiatives. At KPMG, managers use "wellness scorecards" to track whether employees are working too much overtime or skipping vacation. At Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, "workflow coordinators" review attorneys' hours to avert overload. And at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, in North Hollywood, CA, its 500 employees are expected to leave in time for dinner. Mark Louchheim, Bobrick's president, believes family dinners together are important to the well-being of employees and their children. He also believes that setting limits on work motivates people to work smarter.

My own experience managing a Sterling Electronics plant some years ago indicated that employees who habitually stayed late often had poor work habits. They were frequently unable to delegate properly and to prioritize their work. Initially, engineers worked lots of unpaid overtime and the plant was always full of people on Saturdays. However, paying everyone overtime focused attention on the cost of this inefficiency. As a result, working after hours or on weekends was seen as a bad thing that cost us money rather than an indicator of employee motivation and commitment. Within a few months, everyone learned how to get their tasks done during regular hours, and overtime and weekend work on a regular basis went away. In addition, we estimated that productivity improved by an estimated 20%.

Many people think they're actively managing their work-life fit effectively. However, they don't consistently keep track of their work and personal goals and responsibilities in one place, they don't take time to check in with themselves regularly to see if their "fit" matches reality, they don't make ongoing small adjustments, or put self-imposed boundaries around the technology they use. And as Hakim Bey (the American political writer, essayist and poet, Peter Wilson) reminds us, "In a society that enforces a schizoid split between work and leisure, we've all experienced the trivialization of our 'free time,' time which is organized neither as work nor as leisure." The creative and rewarding use of leisure should be at least as central a concern in our society as the need for meaningful work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to cultivate silence, stillness, and solitude.

Post 330 - Richard Mahler is a freelance writer in Santa Fe, NM. His book, Stillness: Daily Gifts of Solitude is about the steady loss of silence, solitude, and simplicity in modern life, and why overscheduled Americans need them back. Here are some of his observations:

"Busy" is more than a buzzword these days. It's shorthand for, "My schedule is a nightmare, my phone won't stop ringing, and my e-mail box is overflowing. I have a mile-long list of obligations to my spouse, boss, kids, friends, pets, car, and houseplants. I'm so swamped that I can't afford to give you more than a one-word answer." What's wrong with being busy? Plenty. Americans have become the most anxious, time-stressed people in the world, thanks in part to all the high-tech devices at our fingertips that are meant to make life easier. The white noise of trivia and the thrill of consumption fill our heads and guide our behaviors.

Within the last 20 years, we've backed away from heavy smoking, hard drinking, and recreational sex as permissible indulgences; yet working our fingers to the bone-and our brains to jelly-is still perfectly okay. In fact, it's given approval at every turn. Walk into any airport and you're surrounded by people at work: on the phone, at the keyboard, in the briefcase. Hotels compete to see who can offer travelers the greatest number of work-related amenities, such as high-speed Internet access, fax machines, office-style desks, and overnight courier services. Sit down at a restaurant, drive down an interstate, ride a commuter train, or take a walk: half the folks around you are lost to a cel phone or a laptop.

What's missing? The three things many of us long for: silence, stillness, and solitude. Unnatural sound has invaded virtually all of our public spaces, including otherwise pristine national parks. In 1998, wilderness sound recordist, Gordon Hempton, toured 15 states and found only two areas - remote parts of Colorado and Minnesota - that were free of sounds made by motors, airplanes, guns, and other human-operated devices for more than 15 minutes during daylight hours. Noise is everywhere once we walk out the door, but somehow we also feel compelled to introduce it to our inner-sanctums: flicking on TV sets, computers, or stereos; playing back answering machines; encouraging our children to play video games; and installing gadgets in every room of the house. As columnist Anna Quindlen notes, the static in the collective national psyche "threatens to drown out the small voices of cosmic questioning or contentment."

Both clinical research and personal experience confirm that self-reflection is a valuable tool for reducing stress, expanding insight, and increasing happiness. The benefits of devoting even ten quiet minutes a day to ourselves include mental clarity, greater efficiency, and a sense of well-being. The negative consequences of constant interaction are obvious. We get irritable and short-tempered, restless and tired, without seeming to know why. Silence is accessible to each of us and costs nothing. Stillness is as soothing as a bubble bath, as illuminating as a bright idea, and as thrilling as a new romance. Solitude allows us, as 19th-century writer Henry David Thoreau observed at Walden Pond, to "be completely true to ourselves." The ability to mold a healthful and life-affirming environment remains within our grasp, even though human-made sound and activity continue to encroach on public and private space. And as we continue filling the world with distractions, often unbidden, we will keep craving the serenity that inevitably shrinks with their arrival.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to creat a leisurely life.

Post 329 - some more reflections on leisure.

Leisure is usually defined as: the time one spends free from the demands of work or duty required for the maintenance of life.

Recreation is defined in the dictionary as: refreshment by means of some pastime, agreeable exercise or diversion.

Dr. Keith Heidorn reminds us that the nature of recreation has changed over the past half century. Recreation was once a big part of community work such as barn-raising, quilting bees and corn-threshing, growing out of the human need for celebration. When this work was shared with others, elements of play were included: conversation, singing and laughter during the work followed afterward by celebration of the accomplishment with music, games, feasting, story-telling and dancing. Where we once experienced joy sharing recreational activities with family and friends, we now buy most of our recreation and entertainment, at times sharing it with other 'fans' who've become our surrogate family/friends. Whole industries now to cater to the public's desires for recreation and leisure. The variety of choices available seems unlimited and this unlimited choice is more of a detriment than a blessing as we search for instant gratification. We jump from choice to choice the same way we endlessly surf the TV to find that one show which will give us true enjoyment and which we so rarely find.

So instead of using recreation and leisure to slow our body and mind down to the pace nature intended, we spend our leisure time at the same frenzied pace as we work at our jobs. How often have you heard vacationers complain on their return home that they now need a rest. I thought that was what they'd left home for! Today more than ever, we need to heed the message to slow down. But Americans and Japanese, in particular, are shown the leisure carrot while being hit with the work ethic stick: Work hard so you can enjoy life. Caught between these conflicting injunctions, it's not surprising that so many people turn to mind-numbing chemicals or diversions to remedy their dilemma.

Stephen Covey has a matrix describing the four types of demands on our time in his book First Things First. They are:
* Urgent and Important,
* Not Urgent and Important,
* Urgent and Un-Important and
* Not Urgent and Un-Important.

His premise is that the wise person who has control over his personal time spends most of it dealing with the first two and very little time on the latter two. Too many of us waste our lives on the Urgent and Un-Important demands because, according to Covey, "the noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance." We carry our cel phones just in case they bring us an Urgent and Important message, but more often than not, we only get Urgent and Un-Important messages, which are only important to the sender.

So to combat all this, consider leisure as time spent doing any activity you choose at a pace of your own choosing. And look at recreation as Re - Creation: to make anew, to revitalize, to inspire with new life and energy. I hope you have a pastime in which you can lose yourself, detaching your mind and spirit from the incessant demands of our age to indulge yourself in a time of renewal.

Every so often, I use my leisure time to stop and watch seagulls soaring across the bay or clouds scudding across the sky. I envy the small boy next door lost in the joy of play. I like to sit quietly sometimes, do nothing and live in the focus of the moment. I remember what Brendan Gill once said: "Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sonnet, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Post 328 - Poems on the London Underground was launched in 1986. The program was the brainchild of American writer Judith Chernaik, whose aim was to bring poetry to the wide ranging audience of passengers (more than four million journeys are made each day). Chernaik, together with poets Cicely Herbert and Gerard Benson, continue to select poets and poems for inclusion in the program. Here is one of them:

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright and the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She graduated from Vassar College in 1917 and moved to New York City. In 1943 she was awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. She was the sixth recipient of that award, and the second woman to be so honored. She was well known for her unconventional, bohemian lifestyle and her many love affairs. Her best-known poem is probably "First Fig," published in 1920:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

She believed that, “Beauty is whatever gives joy.” Here's a poem of hers that I really like:

Sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay

What my lips have kissed and where and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before.
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Balancing work, time off and leisure.

Post 327 - More and more progressive companies now recognize that providing employees with opportunities for a more balanced life provides a competitive advantage in hiring and retaining the best talent worldwide. For example, Novo Nordisk, a Danish company that's leader in diabetes care (with almost 4,000 employees in the US) spells out its philosophy as follows:

"A job with us is never just a job. We want to be there for our customers – and with that aim we want to attract and retain the best employees by making Novo Nordisk a leader in challenging places to work.

In addition to working in a job that makes a difference to our patients, you can also be sure that we are working to ensure that you can maintain a natural balance between work and leisure time. A balance that ensures you have a full life packed with enjoyment and fulfillment both at work and at home. You should always have sufficient time for family, friends and the work we give you.

As more and more people are finding that the boundaries between work and leisure are increasingly dissolving, we have introduced flexitime arrangements in many places, including the opportunity to work from home via an ADSL connection – which we pay for. Flexitime gives you greater influence on when you would like to work during the day – this can be an advantage, especially if you have children."

And you can find many more examples of progressive policies these days. I hope you work in such a company. However, a question you don't hear much about is the the difference between time off from work and leisure time. What exactly is leisure? Passivity isn't leisure; neither is receptivity nor a mere taking in. Leisure isn't the opposite of activity, productivity, or work. Rather, leisure is the right balance between give and take, between work and rest, and it can therefore be achieved in work as well as in rest. As the balance between work and rest, according to Brother David Steindl-Rast O.S.B., it's the opposite of idleness and it's the basis from which good work starts and grows.

He goes on to add, "We might say that leisure is the beginning of all virtues in the sense that it's an inner attitude of openness and trust. Its characteristics are 'taking it easy' rather than 'keeping busy,' of 'allowing things to happen,' not 'keeping things under control.' Trust is necessary, because we can only let things happen if we believe that things will work out all right, that events and circumstances and things and situations come from a source that wants our good ... Thus, leisure is the basis for a full awareness, for as long as we pick and choose we limit our horizons. And, to the degree to which our awareness is increased, our aliveness is increased. That is what leisure is – the amount of our aliveness."

As the author, Bonnie Friedman, reminds us, "An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More examples of flexible vacation policies.

Post 326 - Estalea, the Santa Barbara company I mentioned yesterday, has no formally scheduled days off. It believes that its flexible 40-day vacation policy is necessary to balance out the high expectations and efforts put in by its employees. Since the company is very project based, it demands frequent bursts of high output and believes that people need time to recover in between assignments (just like being in school, work hard for a quarter, then take a break, then work hard for a quarter, take a break....etc). Estalea has also found that this vacation policy helps attract and retain top talent.

Depending on your perspective, Steve Swasey is either an oppressed worker or the luckiest guy in the world. As a salaried employee at Netflix, Swasey has no set number of vacation days. He can spend as much time out of his California office as he wants, provided that he gets all his work done. And there's the hitch: Like many of today's competitive professionals, Swasey always has more work to do that he can get to. "We're always on, 24/7," says Swasey, who admits to checking his BlackBerry throughout a trip to Chile with his family. Still, he insists that he and his colleagues are "not being workaholics. It's being engaged with your job because you love what you do." Thanks to Netflix's unlimited vacation policy, Swasey leaves the office a lot. But the office usually goes with him.

We’ve nearly obliterated the line between work and personal life in America. Many of us tend to “live to work” instead of the other way around. We're defined by what we do and achieve, rather than by what we experience and share. But the cultural attitude is entirely different elsewhere. In Europe and Australia for example, you’re not expected to be reachable during nonworking hours or during vacation. So, people there don’t have the same “guilt” pangs we might experience when we aren’t working.

Because of technology's reach, some activists worry that employees without a specified vacation allotment will feel pressure to work constantly, damaging their relationships and their health. Bonnie Michaels, a board member at Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit organization focused on work/life balance, has no problem with informal vacation policies, so long as managers create a culture where employees really can take breaks. "People are always afraid of taking time off if everybody else isn't doing it," says Michaels. A recession can compound that problem. When people feel insecure about their jobs and their wallets, "they probably won't take the time," she says.

Michaels's organization wants the government to require a minimum number of paid vacation days for everyone. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only advanced economy without such a mandate. France leads the pack with 30 required vacation days; Japan sets the lowest bar, with 10. About a quarter of private-sector American workers have no paid vacations at all, and the lower your salary, the more likely it is you'll fall into that unlucky group.

38% of workers say that the summer benefit they would most like to have is a flexible schedule, making it the most coveted benefit, according to a survey by the staffing firm OfficeTeam. Best Buy has introduced a program called Results Oriented Work Environment which gives its 4,000 corporate employees the freedom to do their jobs without regard to the hours they put in daily – thus opening up the ability to take personal time off without a lot of prior approvals and scheduling rules. Motley Fool, the online investment adviser, lets employees take as many paid vacation or sick days as they need; the company's director of HR, Lee Burbage, says that most of its 180 workers take three to four weeks a year.

At IBM, each of its 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation yearly. The company doesn’t keep track of who takes how much time or when, doesn’t give choice vacation times by seniority and doesn’t let people carry days off from year to year. IBM's vacations-without-boundaries system started in the early 1990s, when managers in the HR, finance and technology departments complained that tracking days off was an administrative burden. So the company stopped counting days in a few departments, then gradually expanded the new policy. Since 2003, it‘s covered everyone in the company, from the CEO to workers at IBM's chip and server factories in East Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, New York.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you taking enough vacation?

Post 325 - In thinking about learning, I believe one of the things we haven't learned much about recently is leisure and balance in life. Work is such a predominant obsession in American society, especially with the present state of the economy, that those who have jobs often don't have energy or appetite for much else at the end of the day. As for vacation, that's a luxury that's often forgone as well.

American’s failed to take 438-million vacation days in 2007 according to Harris Interactive research group. That's more than any other industrialized nation. As a result, America ranks #1 in depression and mental health problems. Americans are experiencing burnout, reduced productivity, diminished creativity, failed relationships, stress or stress-related ailments such as depression, heart disease or stomach ulcers today in record numbers.

"What we measure affects what we do," says Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. "If we have the wrong measures, we will strive for the wrong things." Happiness, long holidays and a sense of well-being may not be everyone’s yardstick for economic performance, but Nicolas Sarkozy believes they should be embraced by the world in a national accounting overhaul. Sarkozy, the president of France, has suggested gauges of economic health that include personal well-being in addition to GDP. Measures could include:
* Employment levels
* Health care
* Vacation
* Household assets and income
* Consumption
* Education
Mr. Sarkozy said he would urge other world leaders, many of whom are gathering at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh toward the end of the month, to adopt new indicators as well.

I remember being shocked when I first came to America in the 1960s and had to give up the six-weeks vacation I was used to in Europe for a one-week first year policy here. However, much has changed since then. Netflix’s awesome vacation policy (basically, the policy is to take the time you think you need), is based on a belief in freedom and responsibility, not rules. At Netflix, there's no limit on vacation because all the company cares about is what people accomplish - not how. Similarly, its travel expense policy is "travel as you would on your own nickel." That's it. No soul-sapping policy manuals. In its first five years as public company, as the business has grown from $100m to over $1 billion in revenue, this commitment to freedom and responsibility has continued to grow. Netflix states, "We've found that by avoiding rules we can better attract the creative mavericks that drive innovation, and our business is all about innovation. We're mitigating the big risk technology companies face (obsolescence), by taking on small risks (running without rules)."

For more information, look up (see presentation).

Another company with a progressive vacation policy is Estalea, an innovative entrepreneurial company based in Santa Barbara that's creating a network of new internet businesses. Estalea, maybe because the founders are originally from Norway and have a European perspective on these things, provides a total of 40-days paid time off each year, together with a variety of other benefits.

I believe Francis Quarles, a 17th century English poet, reflected some of my own philosophy when he said, “Put off thy cares with thy clothes; so shall thy rest strengthen thy labor, and so thy labor sweeten thy rest.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

How people learn.

Post 324 - Studies show that living organisms have learning curves that are S-shaped. So people start with a period of slow orientation followed by a rapid acceleration. However, at a certain point in time, the curve begins to tip downward. Then if a person or an organization doesn’t move onto a new curve, its success life is sharply limited. There are many recent business examples where companies that initially enjoyed great success couldn’t reassess their strategies, and missed the changing market as a result – think of the auto industry for one. Similarly, the PC is not a fixed product but a continuum. It’s not one thing, it’s a continuing phenomenon and every couple of years its definition changes. Success gives the illusion that the curve only goes up. It requires reflection and introspection to know otherwise.

To be introspective means creating an observation point where you can see the past and the future and then decide what to do next. This means retreating, withdrawing to reassess, reframing your perspective, and then returning to the fray. Individuals are most likely to do this when they see different values and conflicts between themselves and their work or their organization. The best strategy is to face up to it and decide what you can change in the organization and what you have to change within yourself. As Professor Pam Posey points out, transitioning between learning curves (created by plotting results v/s effort) is very tricky to do. “It feels like a free fall zone - it feels like we’re throwing away our progress and going back to ground zero again.”

Many companies waste an incredible amount of energy trying to make do with what they have rather than creating something different (in this context, different means better). Managers tell me over and over, “The organization we have is fine - it’s just that it doesn’t really work all that well.” There’s a widespread practice at all levels of people waiting for the experts to tell them the right way to run their business rather than thinking it through for themselves. But deep inside, people usually know a better way to do their work than the way their they’re currently doing it. Ask them, “Would you run the business like this if it were your business?” and the vast majority say “No way.”

However, people in general lack knowledge about how to reach in and access their own beliefs and learnings. And they don’t know how to join their ideas with those of others and act on them together. To many professionals, this approach seems too simple and simple approaches are really difficult for them to trust. However, it’s what works best. The tools most American managers are using to explore their world have grown dangerously out of date.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “As our case is new, so must we think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Today, I leave you with this thought: The future is coming at us with ever increasing speed. We need to engage with it - today; to seize its opportunities - now; to start shaping its possibilities - in this very moment. And our approach must be very different from the behaviors we’ve relied on in the past.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eldorado, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

Post 323 - As we think about creating a better life, here's a poem of inspiration by Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809. His parents died when he was young and he was then taken in by John and Frances Allan, of Richmond, Virginia, although they never formally adopted him. After spending a short period at the University of Virginia and briefly attempting a military career, he parted ways with the Allans in 1829. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American short story writers and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. In January 1845, Poe published his poem The Raven to instant success. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Poe died under very mysterious circumstances. On October 3, 1849, he was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, need of immediate assistance," according to the man who found him. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain what had happened to him, and, oddly, when he was found, he was wearing clothes that weren't his own. He's said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it's still unclear to whom he was referring. All medical records, including his death certificate, have since been lost.

As he once said, "The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old -
This knight so bold -
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell, as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow -
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be -
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied,
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Post 322 - Innovation and imagination can be spurred on by many things, including laziness, as in the story of the farmer and his wife sitting by the fire one evening. The wife said, ”Tom, I think it’s raining. Can you go outside and see?” The farmer, who was very comfortable where he was, thought for a second, then replied, “Why don’t we just call the dog in and see if she’s wet?”

Risk taking, however, is a key component of innovation and you can't expect to always be right in your choices. “The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try,” according to Peter Drucker.

Taking risks involves making intelligent mistakes. Occasional failure is the price of improvement. Think of learning as a stabilizer in times of change. It takes a certain amount of counter-evidence to challenge old behaviors, and it takes further efforts to unfreeze these behaviors, delete obsolete theories, and replace them with new ones. Learning and unlearning are complimentary capabilities and people need to use both of them simultaneously, especially in rapidly changing environments. We learn nothing from the things we already know. But we can learn from the mistakes of others - you can never live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself.

I believe there are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is an experimental process of trial and error. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as those that ultimately work. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you've learned it. And after you've learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson. There's no part of life that doesn’t have its lessons. As long as you’re alive, there are lessons to be learned - the learning never ends. As Karl Popper writes in Conjectures and Refutations, “Our aim must be to make our successive mistakes as quickly as possible.”

Carroll O’Connor, the legendary “Archie Bunker” of TV fame once said, “Professional acting has a kind of tension. The amateur is thrown by it but the professional needs it.” Like a wind-up clock, the professional can't really tick without some tension. When Steve Ross ran MTV, he had a wonderful philosophy - that people got fired for not making mistakes. While solutions reached by rational means may not be the right ones, at least you can backtrack and try to find where you took a wrong turn. Rational thinking doesn’t guarantee wisdom of thought anymore, just transparency.

In most organizations today, knowledge is scattered, hard to find, and prone to disappear without a trace. The Nobel prize winning economist, F. A. Hayek, in an essay on the use of knowledge in society, wrote that, “the knowledge ... we must make use of never exists in concentrated or integrated form, but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.” Traditionally, finding solutions to problems focused on finding the right answer. But, in many cases today, there's no single answer. Rather, there are many often inconsistent and competing answers, none of which has a unique claim to validity. So, risk taking is inevitable in finding the best route forward ... and the most risky route is to try and do it all by yourself.

I'll end this post with a quote from Martin Luther to use as a mantra for moving forward: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How entrepreneurs foster innovation.

Post 321 - Judging by Federico Faggin's outline for introducing innovation which I posted yesterday, the current confusion over health care reform reflects a process that lacks a clearly crystallized central idea and is thus active in all the stages Fagin mentioned at the same time. Hopefully, the president's address tonight will bring a better focus to the national discussion.

I think it's a pity we don't have more people with entrepreneurial experience in government these days instead of so many full-time political bureaucrats. Why? Because entrepreneurs have energy, vision, selling skills and hustle. They've an innate ability to compartmentalize their fears and doubts. They've the drive to put their imprint on whatever they create and they're comfortable with ambiguity and lack of clarity. More than anything, they want to use their skills and abilities, be independent, have contol over their lives and build for their families. They believe in what they’re doing with a passion that overcomes doubt. They believe that if you want to be successful, don’t make a wish, make a call.

Andy Grove of Intel says that learning to adjust in today’s environment is like driving in a fog behind another car. It’s easy going as long as you have the other car’s tail lights to guide you. But when the leading car turns off the road, you’re suddenly stuck without the confidence that comes from finding your own way. Followers have little future. You mustn’t let your strengths become your weaknesses. Focus on inventing the future rather than sprucing up the past.

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. The cost of delay exceeds the cost of mistakes. Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first at the same time. "Some things arrive on their own mysterious hour, on their own terms and not yours, to be seized or relinquished for ever,” according to the writer, Gail Goodwin, who also reminds us that the turtle only wins the race in fairy tales.

Creativity is all about connecting things. Creative people don’t really do something different - rather they see something that just seems simple and obvious to them. That’s because they can connect their experiences and use them to synthesize new points of view. They can do this because they have more experiences or they think more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s a rare commodity. People who haven’t had very diverse experiences don’t have enough dots to connect, so they're unable to think systemically. As a result, they end up with very linear solutions because they don’t have a broad perspective on their problems.

A poet must embrace many tasks, not the least of which is making all the parts of the poem fit together. The biggest challenge is not just to create an exquisite turn of phrase but to be true to the essence of the poem as a whole. Systems thinking is an understanding of the connectedness of different parts of an entity to one another and to its environment. System thinking makes the full pattern of change clearer. When you’re deep in a hole, all you can see is the edge. However, the view from the mountain top is very different.

Stanislaw Lec's observation is still true today: “Many of those who were ahead of their time had to wait for it in uncomfortable quarters.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to create innovation.

Post 320 - Listening to the arguments over health care reform started me thinking about how little seems to be understood about how to create innovation.

For hundreds of years, people thought that the breaststroke was the fastest way to swim, although the way the swimmer’s arms recovered underwater was really inefficient. Then, in the 1850s, some competitive swimmers noticed that Native Americans and Australian aborigines used a stroke with an out-of-the-water, over-arm recovery and began to experiment with the new stroke - a key innovation. They found they had to find a new kick to go along with this new way of swimming, and about the turn of the century, the flutter kick was perfected - a second important innovation. Since then, there have been a large number of small improvements in the crawl stroke, such as rotating side to side rather than swimming flat in the water. Even today, there’s still room for discovery and improvement. A combination of breakthrough innovation and small, incremental improvements - both were important in the development of modern swimming.

Federico Faggin, who invented the first 4-bit microprocessor at Intel in the early seventies, describes the creative process as follows:

The creative process starts with a soup of ideas made up of our own experiences, what we’ve learned from others we know or work with, and ideas we’ve picked up from the media. The first phase is the crystallization of an idea, the 'aha' phase, where we find the conceptual blueprint for a new product or process.

Next, the essence of the idea emerges. It becomes crisp, clear, and real, and is made to work.

The third stage involves introducing the new idea in the real world. This is the most critical stage because here, reactions are generally hostile. Some opposition comes from those who fail to understand the significance of the innovation, some comes from those who are threatened by changes in the status quo, and some comes from those with competing ideas.

But the main problem with new ideas is that they’re different. When something is new, people wonder how it’s going to fit into the old. They’re bogged down in the metaphors of the old and can’t understand something new that’s outside their current experience. They don’t know how to integrate new messages into familiar patterns of thinking and behavior. It takes tremendous self-confidence and persistence to win acceptance for new ideas. And because some of the inevitable criticism will probably be well founded, it takes honesty and pragmatism to know when an idea should be modified or abandoned.

The next phase is one of endorsement, where champions emerge to help the pioneers by lending their credibility to the new idea and giving it visibility. This acceptance triggers the acknowledgment phase during which the idea is widely adopted and used. The inventor gets public recognition and a star is born. Next comes the stage of invisibility, where the idea is no longer considered new and becomes part of the normal fabric of society.

New ideas are most readily received by those in new situations who have something they want to get done, have few preconceived ideas about the right or normal way to do it, and have little to lose by adopting the new. Victor Hugo said, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Unfortunately, most people begin to realize the time has come only long after it’s arrived.

“The search for static security - in the law and elsewhere – is misguided. The fact is security can only be achieved through constant change, through discarding old ideas that have outlived their usefulness and adapting others to current facts.” - William O.Douglas.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Digging, a poem by Seamus Heaney.

Post 319 - My old college friend, Loman Conway, reminded me the other day that I‘ve neglected to feature Seamus Heaney in my poetry posts – and that’s indeed a significant omission. Robert Lowell called Heaney "the most important Irish poet since Yeats."
Heaney was born and grew up near Castledawson in County Derry, Northern Ireland and now divides his time between Dublin and Glanmore in County Wicklow. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford and for many years taught at Harvard University. His writings, lectures and readings have made him one of the most popular and admired writers of our time. He’s a member of Aosdana, an association of people in Ireland who have achieved distinction in the arts. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

One of the things that endears him to so many people is that he’s never lost touch with his South Derry roots. Heaney says, "If you have a strong first world and a strong set of relationships, then in some part of you, you’re always free, you can walk the world because you know where you belong, you have some place to come back to."

Digging by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How excellent managers deal with change.

Post 318

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here's some of the things I've found excellent managers do to deal with change:

• They're clear and focused on the change they want to make happen

• They make sure everyone involved knows why it's necessary to change, and the consequences of success or failure

• They talk about change in terms of specific outcomes to be achieved by a certain date, not in terms of the processes that will be used to get there

• They quantify these outcomes, then measure and share actual progress being made on a constant basis

• They make corrections quickly when change efforts start to go off-course

• They're excellent communicators and great listeners

• When they get feedback, they don't shoot the messengers

• They stay in close touch with all their constituencies and stakeholders

• They meet face-to-face with them regularly and ask for their input

• They know what other people are listening for

• They don't hesitate to do what needs to be done, even when it's uncertain or uncomfortable to do so

• They're decisive and make quick, unambiguous decisions

• They're clear about what to decide themselves and what to delegate to others

• They involve others in contributing ideas about how changes should be implemented

• They're tough taskmasters, who are firm but fair and insist on accountability

• They're not afraid of confrontation

• They're honest, open and consistent in their dealings with others

• They're insistent and impatient about moving forward into new territory

• They're not afraid of failure and view it as an opportunity to learn and start over more intelligently

• They see change as the normal state of the world and view stability as an exception

• They view change as a way to get a competitive advantage over competitors

• They're always on the lookout for new ideas and better ways to doing business, yet they're humble enough to know they don't always have all the answers themselves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How not to manage change.

Post 317.

After 30-years experience as an executive coach and consultant, here's a summary of how I've seen weak managers deal (or not deal) with change:

• They don’t set specific change goals and measure toward them for success

• They're reactive, not proactive, wait until they're forced to change

• They don’t get out in front of change

• They see change as the exception, not the rule

• They procrastinate – put it off 'till tomorrow

• They like to tell people what to do, they're bad listeners

• They try to “order it in”

• They think they can do it all by themselves

• They don’t involve others or ask for input and feedback

• They don’t trust others

• They're reluctant to confront long-term employees

• They dislike confrontation – see everything in win/lose terms

• They argue with others when they get feedback

• They don’t tell employees why change is needed

• They're impatient – want 'better' results right away

• They're not always clear exactly what 'better' means

• They try to change too many things at the same time

• They don’t realize how different change elements are interconnected

• They don’t use pilot programs to learn and make corrections

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thoughts on how to create the life you want.

Post 316 deals with taking the initiative to create the life you want.

"Every man, wherever he goes," wrote Bertrand Russell, "is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions that move with him like flies on a summer's day."

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

“The inhabitants of every civilized country are menaced; all desire to be saved from impending disaster; yet the overwhelming majority refuse to change their habits of thought, feeling and action which are directly responsible for their present plight.” - Aldous Huxley.

Steve Jobs says, “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money ... But that's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use, and the minute that you understand that, you can poke life and ... if you push in, something will pop out the other side. You can change it, you can mold it. That's maybe the most important thing, to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just going to live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark on it. I think that's very important, and however you learn that, once you learn it, you'll want to change life and make it better, because it's kind of messed up in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again ... When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

"Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible." - George Lorimer

Take the time to ask yourself, what “lever” do you pull in your life to create wealth and well-being over time? What’s the “Hot-Button” in your life?

Once you’re clear about that:
* If that’s the “game-breaker,” is that what you spend most of your time working on?

* Specifically, what percentage of your time, effort and energy goes into it?

* Everything else you do then is just an activity. So why do you do it if it doesn't contribute to pulling the “lever,” pushing the “Hot-Button?”

* And if you believe it’s still a necessary activity, should do it yourself or get someone else to do it for you or with you?

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." – Seneca